The People's Guide to Mexico


Over the past 35 years, hundreds of thousands of readers have agreed: This is the classic guide to "living, traveling, and taking things as they come" in Mexico. Now in its updated 14th edition, The People's Guide to Mexico still offers the ideal combination of basic travel information, entertaining stories, and friendly guidance about everything from driving in Mexico City to hanging a hammock to bartering at...

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The People's Guide to Mexico

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Over the past 35 years, hundreds of thousands of readers have agreed: This is the classic guide to "living, traveling, and taking things as they come" in Mexico. Now in its updated 14th edition, The People's Guide to Mexico still offers the ideal combination of basic travel information, entertaining stories, and friendly guidance about everything from driving in Mexico City to hanging a hammock to bartering at the local mercado.

Features include:

Advice on planning your trip, where to go, and how to get around once you're there

Practical tips to help you stay healthy and safe, deal with red tape, change money, send email, letters and packages, use the telephone, do laundry, order food, speak like a local, and more

Well-informed insight into Mexican culture, and hints for enjoying traditional fiestas and celebrations

The most complete information available on Mexican Internet resources, book and map reviews, and other info sources for travelers

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Product Details

  • ISBN-13: 9781598809602
  • Publisher: Avalon Travel Publishing
  • Publication date: 10/2/2012
  • Edition description: 14th Edition
  • Edition number: 14
  • Pages: 768
  • Sales rank: 616,046
  • Product dimensions: 8.40 (w) x 5.50 (h) x 1.10 (d)

Meet the Author

Carl Franz and Lorena Havens have been exploring Mexico since the early 1960s. The warm, easygoing style and personal insights of the writer/editor team have inspired generations of travelers. When not on the road—or living somewhere in Mexico—they can usually be found in their pioneer-era log cabin in the North Cascade Mountains.

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Read an Excerpt

The People's Guide to Mexico

By Carl Franz

Avalon Travel Publishing

Copyright © 2012 Carl Franz
All right reserved.

ISBN: 9781598809602

Exploring Mexico with Carl Franz & Lorena Havens

1. This is the 14th edition of The People's Guide to Mexico. Please tell us the story of how this book came to be.

The People’s Guide to Mexico began on a Mexican beach in 1970 as a series of detailed letters to friends in Alaska who were eager to join up with Lorena, Steve and myself on our first major van odyssey through Mexico. It developed further through storytelling around countless campfires as we travelled on to Guatemala, El Salvador and Belize.

There were no guidebooks at the time that explained how to travel in Mexico and Central America in more than general terms. Our friends and other travelers constantly peppered us with practical questions—how to take a local bus, where to eat cheaply, how to find a budget hotel room and more. With Steve looking over my shoulder and contributing his vast personal experience, I started hammering away on my Olympia portable typewriter. I was easily bored, however, and tended to drift off-topic into stories about our current adventures. Lorena applied her organizational skills in an attempt to keep me focused.

In a small house overlooking Lake Atitlan the manuscript piled beside me eventually reached over one thousand typewritten pages. It became apparent that things had gotten out of hand. Was it a book? Everyone we asked said the answer was obviously, “No!” Who would possibly publish an unknown author writing about off-beat Mexico?

On our slow return northward, we visited John and Eve Muir in San Miguel de Allende. John’s book, “How To Keep Your Volkswagen Alive” was selling like crazy and he’d decided to start his own publishing company. He and Eve took a quick look at our manuscript—the rest, as they say, is history.

2. How has traveling in Mexico changed since the 70's and how is the travel experience the same?

There is no aspect of travelling in Mexico that hasn’t changed dramatically since the seventies, at least in a practical sense. In those days, for example, there were almost no road or directional signs, even on major highways. It wasn’t just easy to get lost and confused, it was inevitable; an integral part of the Mexican experience.

People weren’t used to seeing foreign travelers outside of the most obvious tourist attractions and resorts. Anyone who didn’t look like the typical gringo resort-hopping tourist drew a lot of attention, some of it definitely unwanted (especially from the police).

Mexico’s public service infrastructure was very weak and unreliable—it often took hours and a lot of pesos to make an international phone call. Changing traveler’s checks was a drag.

Of all the changes we’ve seen, however, I don’t think anything can top the arrival of the internet and cell phones. Second on the list would be the tremendous improvement in highways and transportation.
What hasn’t changed in Mexico, or not as much? The hospitality and generosity of the Mexican people, as well as their incredible sense of humor.

3. The People’s Guide to Mexico is often cited as one of the books that launched the independent travel movement. What is your reaction to this?

Since the People’s Guide was first published in 1972, we’ve received thousands of letters, emails and personal testimonials from people who say that the book gave them the confidence and tools they needed to visit Mexico. So, yes, in that sense we did inspire others to grab a backpack or a suitcase and head out. It isn’t easy to remember, but in the sixties and early seventies tourism outside of the U.S. was almost exclusively for people with money. The People’s Guide was for the rest of us—“independents” with more time than money, along with a strong curiosity and appreciation for the “real” Mexico.

As an aside, one of the most gratifying compliments we heard in the book’s early days was from travelers who recommended it for travel to India and Asia. “The People’s Guide is the best guidebook to travel in the Third World.” was the way one person put it.

4. What's the one site/activity/experience in Mexico that should be on a traveler's "bucket list"?

My “bucket list” tends to be filled with apparently ordinary experiences that travelers ordinarily do not think of when away from home. For example, I’ve had haircuts in small town barbershops in Mexico, India and other countries. It’s an experience I don’t necessarily want to repeat but one I seldom forget.

If you are near a beach, there’s nothing more Mexican than spending an entire afternoon in a seaside restaurant, eating and drinking your way through the menu, one delicious dish after another. Hire a taxi for an hour in any mid-sized city and ask the driver to show you the sights. I can’t pass up a Mexican hardware store or street market without looking for handmade tools and ingenious mouse traps.

Lorena’s suggestion is to take a morning bus to a small town you’ve never heard of, eat breakfast there, have your shoes shined and wander the streets. Lorena looks for yarn and interesting little gifts as an excuse to poke her head in small shops. Smile a lot.


Excerpted from The People's Guide to Mexico by Carl Franz Copyright © 2012 by Carl Franz. Excerpted by permission.
All rights reserved. No part of this excerpt may be reproduced or reprinted without permission in writing from the publisher.
Excerpts are provided by Dial-A-Book Inc. solely for the personal use of visitors to this web site.

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Table of Contents

1 Traveling in Mexico 21

Planning Your Trip

A Travel Routine

Where to Go

How to Get There

Travel Packages: Too Good to Be True?


Traveling with Friends

Traveling Alone

Traveling with Kids

2 The Best of Mexico 51

Wherever You Go …

A Mercifully Brief Lesson in Geography and Climate

The Seasons

Baja California

Copper Canyon

Pacific Beaches

Central Mexico: The Colonial Heartland

The Gulf Coast

The Indian Highlands: Oaxaca and Chiapas

The Yucatán Peninsula

The Ruta Maya

3 Getting Around 114



Rental Cars



Navigating in Mexico City

Air Service


Boats and Beasts


A Ride to Remember

4 Driving 147

Why Drive in Mexico?

Why Not Drive?

Driving Overview


Churpa's Driving Story

Road Conditions

City Driving

Night Driving

Traffic Signs

Toll Roads


Surviving Mexico City

Steve's Bypass Operation

Police Roadblocks and Highway Checkpoints


Finding Your Way


Green Angels and Breakdowns

Gas Stations


Preparing Your Car

Buying a Car

Living in Your Vehicle

Do-It-Yourself Camper

Car Repairs

Travels with Woody and Sonny

5 Accommodations 206


Renting a Place

House Hunting

Wood-Fired Water Heaters

Living with Mexicans

Maids and Gardeners

6 Camping 246

Camping with Children

RV Motor Homes and Trailers

RV Caravans

Van, Pickup and Car Campers

Rent-a-Car Camping

What Will It Cost?


Where to Camp

Is It Safe?

Where to Be Careful


Camping and Kitchen Gear

A Traveling Kitchen

Food from Home

Odds and Ends

Camping Skills

7 Packing Up 280


Travel-Light Packing Suggestions

The Hidden Pocket

Health Information and Insurance

Useful Travel Accessories

Odds and Ends

Gifts and Trade Goods

8 Mexico: A to Z 295

AA and 12-Step Meetings


Banks and Money

Bank and Legal Holidays



Business Hours


Consulates and Embassies


Email and Cyber Cafes




Post Office and Mail


Telegraph Service

Telephones, Cell Phones, Online Calling and Fax Services.

Time and Zones


Tourist Information

Vegetables: Purifying

Volunteer and Aid Groups


9 Staying Healthy 324


Got Sick Anyway…

Health and First-Aid Kit

Remedies and Cures

Secrets of the Maya Revealed!

10 Safety 360

Is Mexico Safe?

The Accidental Tourist

Drinking and Drugs

Valuables and Rip-Offs

Swimming and Lifeguards


Revolutions and Guerrillas

11 Red Tape and the Law 370

Tourist Cards

Vehicle Permits: A Step-by-Step Explanation

Yachts and Private Aircraft


Guns and Hunting

Fishing Licenses

Car Insurance


Official Documents and Checkpoints

Mexican Customs Inspections

Tourists and Mexican Law

12 !Viva Mexico! 401

Customs and Traditions


Celebrations and Fiestas

Holiday Calendar

Festivals, Fairs and Circuses

Beggars and Con Artists

National Lottery



The Bullfight

Mexico: A Brief History

What the Hell Is That?

Saints' Days

13 Shopping 454

Shopping and Souvenirs


Imports: Fortune or Fantasy?

Shopping for Arts and Crafts

Steve's Shopping Tips

Parrot Fever

14 Restaurants and Typical Foods 478

The Joy of Eating

Types of Restaurants

Street Food

Mexican Fast-Food Tips

Ordering a Meal

Paying Up



What You'll Eat


15 Booze and Cantinas 521

Drinking Customs

Vino or Wine?


Tequila and Mezcal

Hard Liquors


Home Brews

Bars and Cantinas

16 Markets and Stores 538

Markets and Tianguis

Ins and Outs of Haggling

Shopping Suggestions


The Shopping List

A Typical Marketing Trip

Market Days in Mexico

Market Days in Guatemala

17 Our Favorite Mexican Recipes 588

Valuable Cooking Tips

Our Favorite Mexican Recipes

18 Speaking Spanish 619

It's Worth the Effort

Greetings and Salutations

Hand Signals

Formalities and Titles

A Typical Polite Letter



The Mexican Media

Speaking Spanish: Where Do I Start?

19 Live or Retire in Mexico 645

Don't Burn Bridges or Make "Pink Cloud" Decisions

What Will It Really Cost?

A Few Words from Friends and Readers Living in Mexico

Disconnecting from the "Real World"

Can a Tourist or a Foreigner Own Land?

If You Want to Read More …

20 Back to the U.S.A 659


Is It Legal?

Declare Your Purchases

Duty-Free Limits

Mail It Home

Pets and Plants

Last but Not Least

A Typical

Border Crossing?

21 For More Information: Websites and Book Reviews 672

Mexico Guidebooks and General Information

People's Guide to Mexico Website Highlights

Discuss Mexico and Latin America Online

The Best of Mexico: From Baja to Central America

Archaeology, Anthropology and Ethnology

Booksellers and Sources

Border Crossing: Before Leaving Home

Border Crossing: Mexico (Red Tape)

Border Crossing: U.S.A. (Back to the U.S.A.)


Culture: !Viva Mexico!


Food and Recipes

Gay and Lesbian


History, Novels and Nonfiction


Live or Retire in Mexico and Central America

Maps and Sources






Natural History Newsletters

Outdoor Activities

Packing Up: Travel Accessories and Gear



Photography and Photo Galleries

Public Transportation: Getting Around

Real Estate, Rentals, Vacation Properties

Research, Archives and Libraries

RV and Camping


Spanish Study

TV and Radio

Volunteer and Social Action Groups

Weather, Climate and Hurricanes


Working in Mexico

Appendices 734

Index 747

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